One of the most distinctive, fascinating things about the Latin music industry is that artists can hit the ground running -- and then keep running for decades. Some superstars not only stay in the game, but dominate it long after they'd be considered "past their prime" in certain other whippersnapper-idolizing industries. (We're looking at you, dance pop!)
Maybe that doesn't sound like such an unusual phenomenon. After all, rock's got its Rolling Stones and pop's got Madonna, but those are exceptions to the youthful rule, at least when it comes to the charts. Meanwhile, Latin charts (including Rhapsody's own Top Artists lists) are regularly graced by the likes of Marco Antonio Solís (who began his career in 1965), Los Tigres del Norte (formed in 1968, but had one of 2011's top albums) and Vicente Fernandez (born in 1940 and a good four to five decades into his career now). For the casual Latin fans among us, an apt analogy for Vicente's continued pop stardom would be to think of someone like Dolly Parton reigning atop the pop charts. Right now.
The phenomenon is slightly more pronounced in regional Mexican, home to legendary mega-bands often helmed by various generations of a family. Still, there are plenty of young upstarts there, too -- and they're still regularly trounced by the likes of La Arrolladora Banda el Limon De Rene Camacho (formed in the '60s and currently enjoying the No. 6 Latin song as of this writing), La Original Banda el Limon de Salvador Lizárraga (also formed in the '60s and currently at No. 12), Pesado (relative youngsters with only a few decades under their studded belts) and Banda El Recodo (formed in the 1930s, currently holding the No. 16 song). Forget Dolly Parton -- that's like Kitty Wells (R.I.P.) having a song on the pop charts today.
But plenty of other genres, from merengue to cumbia, also love their original gangstas. Get to know some of Latin's most mature -- and still freshest -- artists.